Pet Vet: Bee sting causes allergic reaction in dog

May 11, 2015

Ah, spring is in the air. The flowers are blooming and the air is warming. The sights and sounds and smells of this great time of year are all around, and one of those sounds is buzzing. Apparently, Woody is quite attracted to that buzzing sound, and that attraction proved to be a bit of a problem.

As I suspect you have surmised, the buzzing sound is caused by bees. In the spring, when the flowers are in bloom, bees abound, taking nourishment from the flowers to support their hives. There seems to be a certain curiosity or attraction to said bees by many of our canine companions and — as has been the case for Woody — this can lead to problems.

I am not sure exactly why some dogs are attracted to bees; perhaps it is the buzzing sound that might create a frequency of sound that either appeals to or aggravates a particular dog. Maybe it is a visual effect. Whatever the case may be, the results of this encounter can be at the very least uncomfortable and at worst, life threatening.

A bee sting carries venom that causes some pain at the sting site as well as an inflammatory reaction from the body of the victim. It is this inflammatory reaction that can lead to more severe problems. In Woody’s case, he apparently was stung by a bee somewhere in his backyard and the cascade of inflammation began. This inflammation, spearheaded by the release of histamine from inflammatory cells, set off a cascade of events that caused Woody’s face to swell up like a balloon, according to his caretaker, predominately on the left side. The swelling got to the point where his left eyelids were swollen shut and his right lids were close to being the same. That is the point when Woody was presented for examination.

Upon examination, Woody was in good spirits despite his swollen face and decreased vision. Owing to his happy spirit, Woody did not show signs of pain though looking at him made me feel like he must be extremely uncomfortable. A bee stinger was found and removed from his left upper lip inside his mouth.

The type of reaction Woody was enduring falls into the allergic category that implies a hyper response from the immune system. The goal is to reduce the excessive immune response and thus the inflammatory reaction associated with it, that and get the stinger out if you can find it, as it keeps pumping in venom after it dislodges from the bee.

As I mentioned, histamine is the chemical most responsible for this hyper reaction to a bee sting, so it follows that the use of antihistamines would be warranted. This is absolutely the case. An antihistamine drug is injected along with corticosteroids which, in combination will decrease the inflammation over a few hours. Indeed, that is what happened in Woody’s case.

Allergic reactions to bee stings are variable and in some cases in dogs and humans for that matter, there is no allergic reaction to the bee sting. The variability in allergic response is what leads to variability in severity of the inflammatory response. There is a direct correlation.

It is also important to understand that oftentimes, the allergic responses can escalate in intensity with each successive exposure. In other words, it gets worse each time a bee sting occurs. This is why it can be a life-threatening event in the case of some dogs. If Woody, for example, had had a more severe response to his bee sting, the inflammation could have been severe enough to close down his airway.

Try to keep your dogs from playing with bees and if a sting does occur, make sure to monitor them closely for swelling especially in the area of the head. If this does occur, seek immediate veterinary attention for your companion.



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